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Stephen Harper tries to hug his mother

I watched a bit this evening of the Michael Jackson event, being simultaneously translated into French on several channels, which made it a bit surreal. During the boring bits – were those speeches interminable or was it just the French translation which made them seem so long? – I watched “Desperate Housewives” on another channel, in English. I never watch it at home, but it was a pleasure here, so far away, to watch American neuroses for a change, instead of French ones.

Then I opened Le Monde, the intellectual French newspaper, to find an ad sponsored by “whiteribbonalliance.org,” addressed to the leaders of the G8 about the world wide health of women. It’s a clever ad showing old childhood photographs of each of the eight leaders with his, or in the case of Angela Merkel, her, mother. “Your mothers taught you to write your name; today they count on your signature,” it says, to try to end maternal mortality.
A lovely picture of a very young Obama laughing in the arms of his mother, Angela and hers side by side grinning at the camera, Berlusconi as a little boy beside his poor mother, Gordon Brown a little boy, Sarkozy too, Aso the Japanese leader and Medvedev from Russia. And in the middle there’s a picture of a frizzy haired woman with her back to the camera, trying to hug a stiff, uncomfortable adult male with lacquered hair who can’t even manage to put his arms around her – his hands are flailing helplessly in the direction of her back. Yes, it’s our noble Prime Minister with his old mum, trying to show affection. I read in the “Globe” that the Tories are rising in the polls, and I think, maybe I’ll stay just in France and watch “Desperate Housewives.” I don’t want to come back to a country that might give a majority to a man who can’t even hug his mother.
Life has changed in the house on the Gordes hill – Elisa is home. She’s the youngest of my friends’ five children, a mere 23; her brother, the oldest, is approaching 40. Once again, I note the difference between a child raised in France and chez nous; this one has travelled extensively, has spent a year working in Senegal, has just returned from some months in Sydney, Australia and will come to Montreal in September to do a degree at Concordia. She has time off in August and wants to travel. Where? I ask. “I’d love to go back to Senegal,” she replied. Africa seems so close from here, not the other end of the universe, as it is for us.
It’s great to have a young person in the house. She arrived with a big bag full of dirty laundry and plunged with delight into the fridge, just like my kids do when they visit. After more than 20 hours of flying time last night, she was still perky; invited me to join her in an aperitif – she had Pernod, I rosé – and then she made a crab and tomato tart for dinner. Today she made us lunch – stir-fried vegetables and fried fish in a cream sauce. This is a French young person, after all. But there is make up all over the bathroom, the phone is ringing constantly, an “Elle” magazine left in the garden – youth has arrived and it’s great.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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